Last night HBO and 'Game of Thrones' messed up y'all, they messed up real bad.
Warning: Spoilers for Season 4 beyond this point.
Warning 2: Nerd rage over character development and/or plot missteps beyond this point.
Warning 3: Trigger warning for sexual assault beyond this point.
Warning 4: No more warnings beyond this point.
Okay yes, we've dealt with questionable deviations from the novels in the past, like Drogo and Dany's wedding night or the amount of nudity used to Jedi Mind Trick the audience into learning Westerosi politics but nothing like this. Episode 4×03, 'Breaker of Chains,' will no doubtedly go down in infamy, especially after the elation felt by last week's Purple Wedding.
As Joffrey's funeral commences, fans of both the book and show watched the scene between Cersei and Jaime in the Sept of Baelor in fear. As a book reader my trepidation was the show would shy away from this scene, finding it hard to portray a pair of people so broken and codependent they'd bone during their son's wake. I can only speculate show watchers feared some version of this as well, only maybe instead of fearing they wouldn't shag like rabbits on the Mother's altar, they feared that they would? Because seriously Jaime and Brienne are soul mates and Cersei needs to step off. Regardless, either of those outcomes would have been preferable to the absolute character assassination we were forced to partake in instead.
What should have happened?
In 'A Storm Of Swords' Jaime returns to King's Landing after Joffrey's untimely demise – untimely used here to denote derision at how long it took for someone get the stones to off the little tyrant – and rushes straight to the Sept. Cersei rages at him that he was too late to save Joff. She realizes one of his hands is cold and rigid and freaks out. Jaime comforts her.
What actually happened on the show.
Jaime's been back at King's Landing for a while and witnessed first hand the poisoning of his eldest son. During the wake, he forces everyone out so he can talk to Cersei. She orders him to kill Tyrion because sure, in a viper's nest of people waiting to kill King Joffrey the Really Seriously Terrible only her brother should be suspect. Jaime refuses. Cersei cries and he comforts her.
So far, so good. But hold on to your butts because shit's about to get real…dumb.
What should have happened?
Jaime swears his love to Cersei. He tells her now is the time to strike, to marry, to co-rule and raise Tommen to be a good and just king and to the Seven Hells with anyone who tries to tell them otherwise. Cersei tells him no but tempers it with a kiss. Jaime follows through on her lead but now Cersei is – rightfully – concerned with the timing and/or impropriety of getting caught boning your twin brother to pass the time during your son's wake. Undeterred Jaime keeps going and things get a little close to the assault borderline when Cersei decides she doesn't care. She missed her brother/lover and if anyone wants to side-eye her for welcoming him home with her lady bits, they can pop off to Ser Ilyn for a quick and permanent reprogramming. The exact lines are as follows:
“Hurry,” she was whispering now, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime.” Her hands helped guide him. “Yes,” Cersei said as he thrust, “my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you”re home now, you”re home now, you”re home.” She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh.”
Is this consent? Yes. Is this coerced consent and therefore questionable in a court of non-Westeros law? Probably. Is this not enthusiastic consent and really unethical by our standards? Definitely. But! It gives a subtle, distinct tonal shift to this scene and pulls it out of rape territory and into 'wow these people are irredeemably screwed up seriously y'all need Westeros Jesus.'
What actually happened on the show.
Things seem right in line with the books. They cry, they kiss but then Cersei breaks their embrace. Hunched over and away she says nothing, does nothing. For some reason this provokes Jaime, filling him with simmering rage enough to spit out, 'You are a hateful woman.' Which yes duh, she is. But Cersei is hateful because she's petty and paranoid and the product of living in a world where she was really expensive chattel and NOT because she won't let you go all the way in front of your kid's corpse. Jeez Jaime get it together. But he doesn't get it together and instead forces himself on her, ripping at Cersei's clothes and forcing her to the ground while she tells him to stop, it's not right and cries. The epiphany moment for Cersei never comes where she consents to sex and then initiates the continued contact, turning this from a admittedly disturbing way of parents processing grief and into straight up rape and in the process destroying the integrity of two character's personalities.
So for the writers and director of this episode of 'Game of Thrones' I pose a question…are you high? I know the episode aired on 4/20 but you wrote and shot it prior to that yes? Oh what's that, you think it was a consensual sex scene?! Okay no. Jaime saying 'I don't care' over and over while his sister/lover cries and tells him to stop is not consent. Full stop.
Jaime has never been a paragon of virtue but he has a code. This is a man who has been sexually faithful to one woman his entire life. A man who saved a woman he didn't think he even liked from rape. In the books, a man who felt helpless and full of rage that he couldn't keep King Aerys from raping his wife, Queen Rhaella. Who went out of his way to keep secondary female characters from sexual assault. Why would you take his redemption arc out behind the barn and put it down? Why?
And Cersei wouldn't have tolerated some man – even her brother/lover – trying to turn her into a piece of meat. This is a woman who successfully kept her husband from knocking her up for seventeen years. A woman who doesn't shy away from cold-blooded murder and thinks planning revenge is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Why would you take this calculating, arrogant Queen and strip away her agency using the one person who loves her unconditionally? Why?
I hope you're happy with yourself, 'Game of Thrones,' now go sit in the corner and think about what you've done.